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The Neanderthal Man

During the Old Stone Age (known as the Middle Paleolithic Age), the ancient, now extinct ancestor to man walked the Earth. He was a hominid, which meant that he was a primate that walked in the upright position. In this article, you will learn more about the Neanderthal Man and the discoveries that unlock the features and life of man’s ancestor.

It was 1856 when Neanderthal Man was discovered near Dusseldorf, Germany. Workers encountered the skull and skeletal remains of what looked like a human body. Finding the remains jumpstarted the discussion about what kind of being they had found. Of course, a lot of controversy came from this debate. Two main theories and arguments developed.

For starters, the skull appeared greatly different than the skull of a man that lived during the 19th century, and led some to believe that the human being had been deformed. Perhaps the bones were from a being that suffered from severe bone disease or some sort of malformation associated from their birth. Others believed that the skull belonged to an ‘early’ man. The theory of an early man was supported in a book called ‘Man’s Place in Nature,’ which was published in 1863. It was written by the English naturalist Thomas Henry Huxley.

Huxley was not the only researcher to side with the discovery of early man’s remains. Paul Broca (a French surgeon and anthropologist) argued that the skull belonged to early man. He used the theory of evolution from Charles Darwin’s research and books to support his reasoning. Broca stated that the Neanderthal skull was an important piece of the puzzle that explained human evolution.

Other discoveries of early man started to emerge in other countries. In 1886, two similar skeletons were found in Belgium. This time, a couple of stone tools were found close to the remains. With this find, the arguments of Huxley and Broca that the remains belonged to one of man’s early ancestors, started to convince more people. More discoveries were made, including remains excavated on the island of Java in Southeast Asia. Between 1890 and 1892, a number of fossil remains found in the banks along the Solo River shed new light on the subject. Called the Java Man, Dutch paleontologist Marie Eugene F. T. Dubois discovered what was known as Pithecanthropus erectus.

Findings to follow included the Chinese discovery of the “Peking Man” in 1923. The evidence that came out of this find was that groups of the Neanderthal race lived about 70,000 to 11,000 years ago. The remains of this type of early man were found in Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. At some point, the group disappeared and was replaced by another type of man. To this day, no one has a clue what happened to the early man.